Siobhan Magnus hopes to ride 'Idol' fame to bigger successes
Former "American Idol" contestant Siobhan Magnus performed in New York's Central Park during the July 9 broadcast of ABC's "Good Morning America."
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Siobhan Magnus didn't win season nine of "American Idol." She didn't even make it to the Top 5, to the shock and disappointment of fans who still had her as a frontrunner when she was eliminated on April 28.
But if Idol winners were selected on a single performance, her gothic cabaret rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black," with a scream for the ages, might have put her on top.
That original take on the classic, which she'll be doing when "American Idol Live!" stops at the First Niagara Pavilion Wednesday, came about during rehearsals she was having with vocal coaches Dorian Holly and Michael Orland.
"I was talking about how I loved being in haunted houses and my favorite thing to be is an evil clown, because everyone is afraid of clowns, so you scare more people than anybody else," she says in a phone interview. "And so we were talking about that and the creepy circus music that would play. Michael started playing the intro on the keyboard, and he just started playing this waltz, this creepy circus waltz, and then he applied that to the chords of 'Paint It, Black.' We just looked at each other like 'Ahhhh' and got all excited. That feeling when you get excited and all your muscles squeeze up because it's like 'Yesss! It's perfect.' It was so right. Everything started falling into place and I got my outfit -- the poofy little dress with the boots. Some weeks that happens, all the pieces just fit. That was one of them for me."
The 20-year-old singer from Barnstable, Mass., came to "Idol" with a little high school drama experience (she was Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz"), a stint with an alt-rock band called Lunar Valve and some musical roots in the family. Her father is a singer-songwriter, her siblings play in bands and her uncle is the bassist in Christian metal band Stryper. Ms. Magnus was turned down by the Berklee College of Music and dropped out of Salem State College after one semester.
Berklee's loss turned out to be "Idol's" gain as she brought an edge to the season, vocally and fashion-wise. Along with the Stones song, she scored with stunning ballad versions of "House of the Rising Sun" and "Across the Universe." In her last few weeks, however, the feeling among the judges was that she was starting to lose her direction, a criticism that didn't sit well with her.
"It did bug me a little bit just because if I could choose from any song in the world, I wouldn't have chosen those songs. You have to choose from a list every week and sometimes the list is very small, and everyone is choosing from it. I chose the best that I could from that list. I never chose a song I didn't like, but I like all kinds of music and I said that over and over. I have an extremely broad taste and I don't like any one genre the most.
"My two favorite bands are Hanson and Hole and they're polar opposites. I wanted to challenge myself and I think some of the songs I did were very hard and didn't come out exactly how I wanted them to, but it's almost unfair for people to say that about you when you're on the show because nobody knows what it's like when you have a short amount of time to pick your song and work on it and put your performance together. I did the best I could and none of it was dishonest. I'm a very stubborn and strong-willed person, and I would never go on stage with something I wasn't comfortable with or wasn't my idea. If I had had time to explain that to everyone who thought that I lost my way, maybe I could have changed their minds."
Although she hasn't signed a record deal like winner Lee DeWyze and runner-up Crystal Bowersox, she says "we've talked to some people and I definitely have ideas and high hopes."
In the meantime, she's thrilled about what's happened to her in the months after the show.
"It's just totally different than my life was last year at this time. It's just really exciting because I have so much to look forward to and I'm just grateful that some of the things that happened to me in the last few months I dreamed of since I was a little kid. I got to meet Hanson and sing with them. That in itself is one of the biggest things I could ask for. I couldn't ask for something that big. Those are the things that happened that completely reinstate your faith that maybe something happened for a reason. It was so miraculous to me -- it makes you reflect on how blessed we are to be here."
The teen group Hanson, of "mmmbop" fame, was her childhood idol from the time she was 6, and that hasn't changed much.
"It's been almost 14 years since I fell in love with Hanson and there was never a hiatus for me. They are consistently my favorite band and their music has been one of the most consistent parts of my life, something that I could always depend on when I felt like I had nothing else. When I didn't know what else to do, where else to turn, I would just sit in my room and listen to their music for as long as it took to feel better."
All she knows about her own potential debut album is that it will rock but also show her diversity. She hopes it can do for someone what Hanson did for her.
"The most important thing is not that I sell a ton of records. If it ends up being one guy that buys my album and he really likes it, and it moves him, then I will have reached my goal. There have been so many artists who have touched me with their music that I don't know what I would have done without them. All I can ask is to be that for one other person."
As for who impresses her the most on the "Idol" tour, which had to cancel eight dates due to weak ticket sales, she likes young Aaron Kelly's "feel-good set" and is wild about Lee.
"There's something really moving about Lee's performance, just because you sit there and watch it and, for us, it sums up that whole feeling of the season coming to a conclusion. It's hard to explain. Just because he won and he's my best friend here, it just makes you feel almost teary-eyed. That's our Lee."
First Published July 18, 2010 12:00 am